Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toronto Anglican Bishops issue rush-hour invitation to church

Regaled Anglican Bishops plead for more people in pews on Toronto street corners
By Curtis Rush, Toronto Star, September 23, 2010
Competition is what the Anglican bishops say is what has pushed them out into the streets to meet with people.

Bishop Philip Poole, who was stationed in Mississauga, said, “We’d be lying if we said that attendance is soaring and that all is well.”
Mostly, however, people are growing more secular and devoting less time to church, the bishops say.
“Competition is everywhere,” Johnston said. “The pace of life is a lot busier. We’re just hoping to make them stop and think.”
If last year’s event is any gauge, more people will be in the pews come Sunday.
After last year’s event, Johnston says Anglican churches in the Toronto diocese saw 1,800 more people coming up the church steps the following Sunday.
The bishops, however, said the objective is not just to get more business for their own churches. They say it’s to encourage people to get involved in their own houses of worship and put religion back into their lives.
Meeting with people, with a pamphlet and an "invitation" to come back to church is not "meeting with people." What it is, rather, is hawking your own organizational failures to meet the needs of people who dearly wanted to meet with you when they did attend, but you were all too busy with your "official meetings" and your "policy discussions" and your "sexual orientation training sessions" and your "retreats" and your "political correctness" as dogma.
I practiced active ministry in both the Anglican and Episcopal churches from 1991 through 2000 in both Canada and the U.S. and resigned over several issues including my own errors in judgement, none of them resolved, after repeated attempts on my part to open discussion, mediation, arbitration and dialogue. And what I found, amid a culture of female "take-over" and "male self-emasculation" were the following:
  •  bishops telling their priests to "fill the coffers and pews" as any CEO would direct his sales staff at General Motors, and
  • bishops declaring their diocesan vision of "10% more people and 15% more dollars" and
  • advisors telling their bishops not to attend large televised community prayer vigils at times of serious crises "because they were merely publicity stunts by the Romans" in the words of one Canon and
  • bishops refusing to attend ecumenical events featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu in North America speaking to the youth of the area, and
  • Canons writing letters to their priests that all non-married priests must henceforth remain celibate, and
  • bishops hosting conferences about the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, only to cover their own back sides because they were unalterably opposed to such a step themselves, and
  • treasurers acting as gate keepers through their tight-fisted clenching control of the purse strings, without a thought to the kind of ministry their neighbourhood needed and
  • parishes sitting on trust funds of half-a-million to one million-plus dollars, while ignoring the legitimate needs of the people in their neighbourhood, with impunity
  • Archdeacon sycophants to their bishop superiors, while all the time bemoaning their own failure to achieve the election to that office
  • and clergy refusing to vote for peers, candidates for Bishop, whom they knew would set standards and would enforce those standards, preferring more "controllable" or as they would put it, more "flexible" candidates whom they knew they could control and
  • female priests demanding changes to the canons without regard to the individual responsibilty of women for their own decisions, as if the church were the protector of those women and
  • literal interpretations of scripture being elevated to "gospel" and ultimate truth status
  • a complete lack of comprehension and use of the language of poetry by both clergy and laity
  • a formal, frozen attitude between and among parishoners, broken only with the most assertive training in community building and care of one another especially in times of personal crisis and loss
  • a culture of "insiders" who call themselves cradle Anglicans and outsiders who came into the church after beginning life in a different or no church
  • a culture of marriage breakdown and alcoholism among some clergy covered by the mask of the clerical collar, silence and whispered rumours
  • a culture of corporate "numbers counting and accounting" and authority that supercedes pastoral ministry
  • an complete absence of due process for the resolution of difficult situations
  • training in "holy hand-holding" without any training in conflict resolution for priests
  • training in academic exegesis and history and systematic theology without a corresponding time on pastoral education, except for those who made it their personal choice, at considerable expense and fatigue
  • a culture of fundamentalists' fear, loathing and contempt of those espousing a liberal theology, as I was
  • active removal of clergy by power-hungry laity (self-proclaimed "friends of the bishop") whose need for control and power subverted the will of the parish
  • and above all a complacency that "ours is the Right Religion" above all others, without a clear scholarly articulation of just what that "faith" represents by scholars in the church
There is no surprise that bishops have come to this, and I urge any who encounter their mitred holy leaders to confront them with real questions, so that they, the bishops, might actually learn to "LISTEN"....and that might begin a process of actually MEETING with people...and that cannot be accomplished in a stampede to or from the transit system in a huge metropolis.

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